James Cotty gets the first CX race of the year under his belt and gives us a run down.

Wessex League, Newbury

Bike racing is hard! However, we tend to forget this from week to week and more so season to season, so it came as a bit of a surprise, even after over twenty seasons of 'cross, to be reminded of the brutality of the sport. The young guys are fast....and the old guys are faster!

Still, I'm no spring chicken and having just gone up to the Vet 40+ category decided to employ a little experience and self control off the line. From a full field of 90 riders, and after a quick word with the commissaires, it was business as usual and a front row start having finished inside the top 10 of the Senior league last season. The course was mainly dry with only a little dampness through the forest. Sticky buy not 'sticking' made for a fast course overall. Oh, and not to mention the hill.

Off the line I held a little back and didn't go for the full-fat start I'm used to making, slotting into about 10th through the first few turns and during the lead-up to the hill. By the base of the hill I had moved through a little and by the top I had moved up another couple of places. Things were looking reasonably good and the bike was performing well. Gears smooth, shifts precise and brakes better than they've ever been. In 'cross, now some riders are moving over to disc bikes, keeping the old faithful cantilevers working smoothly and with minimal effort can pay dividends later in a race when hands become tired.

As the first few laps ticked by I made up a couple of place and also lost a couple ultimately slipping to around 10th. I was feeling ok with good legs but not always able to use my strengths due to the ultra bumpy sections across the dried fields. Still I pressed on trying to close gaps where possible whilst trying to distance anyone I could see out of the corner of my eye through the switchbacks. This however felt anything but comfortable and I need to tune the intervals over the next couple of weeks as the nights close in and the turbo makes a permanent appearance in the utility room......

I can't recall the number of laps we raced as there was no visual indicator this week, however was careful not to miss the bell for the final lap. The last lap in 'cross is where you need to be super-attentive as everyone looks to empty the tank whether chasing or being chased, and today was no exception. One guy who'd been eyeing me up for a couple of laps was edging closer through the out-sections, whilst I was busy trying to close in on my ex-junior team mate; and this is where a nice bit of experience came in handy. Using just enough effort on certain corners to keep one guy behind it was also sufficient enough to close in and pass the other with three corners remaining. Fair play, and true to form, I knew he would try to outsprint me but if there's one strength I have, it's being able to finish with a sprint and over the 70 odd yards from the last corner to the line I was able to put a good few bike lengths into him. The results will be posted shortly, and I hope they're favourable and tie-up with where I think I finished. If they are I'll sleep well. If they're not, I'll spend the week rueing every missed opportunity and working out how to improve again for next week.